Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Life as a runner

I'm not sure that I am cut out for long distance running. I am currently about 15 stone and 6'3", or 96kg and 1.91m. I have at times been very fit in my youth, but have always gone out of my way to avoid going out of my way. At a school rugby camp, when I was a bit lighter, we were once dropped out of town and told to run back. Dawdling at the back, a friend's brother came upon us in a car, and gave 3 of us a lift for a couple of miles. Inevitably we were caught, and forced to redo the run the next day. This time the monitoring was looser and our planning was tighter, so we had a car organised in advance, and we got away with it.

A few years later at college, I was playing university rugby, and trying to keep fit during the summer. I would do a loop of about 3 or 4 miles with a friend. Until that point I had never realised what the expression "running rings round somebody" meant, but he would do just that: skip along in front of me, bounce off the pavement onto the road, sidestep behind me, overtake me, and repeat the process. When I staggered in after the first lap, he would trot off to run a second.

Playing rugby after university I was as fit as I have ever been. A holiday photo of me about 4 months after I had stopped playing shows me still with a washboard stomach. Still I would avoid any run further than about 100m: I would always rather run through something than around it if possible.

On moving to Cape Town in 1998, my wife and I, inspired by the South African outdoor lifestyle, decided that we ought to get fit. We entered ourselves in the Gun Run - a half marathon, and began training. For both of us, finishing (in 2:06 - perfect 6 minute kms) was something of a victory. Over the next 10 years or so I did another 2 Gun Runs, 2 or 3 Knysna halfs, and 2 Two Oceans halfs. The races have been preceded by a get fit campaign of 2 or 3 months, and followed by a slump back into inactivity. Each time I've just tried primarily to finish, and secondly to do a decent time. The only time I had a real goal was the 2001 Knysna, when we had to finish in time to get back, shower, and get to the pub for the Lions / Australia test.

Having run this years Gun Run on 11th October, 5 days after my 40th birthday, in 1:51, I felt pretty good. It was my second fastest time for 21km, and I didn't feel completely finished for once. I had always told myself that I should run a marathon one day, and so decided to do something about it before it got too late. I applied to the British Red Cross, and they have given me one of their places in the London Marathon 2010. For me this is perfect: it goes right past my old rugby club, my Sunday morning haunt of Greenwich market, the Isle of Dogs where I used to work, the road I designed, and then right along the Embankment. It's going to be a big day, one way or another. The map on the wall above my desk inspires and scares me in equal measure. Both are effective motivators for the training I need to do.

All I need now is sponsorship...

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